Scientists at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne) built and tested the first successful prototypes of a remote monitoring system for nuclear facilities to enhance operational safety and advance emergency response efforts. The two-year project—funded by a combined $600,000 investment from DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response, DOE’s Nuclear Energy Office, and Embedded Planet Inc. (EPI)—was led by Yung Liu, a Senior Nuclear Engineer at Argonne. Liu recently received the Special Achievement Award from RFID Journal for his work with DOE to develop and deploy the ARG-US Remote Monitoring Systems Technology.  

The success of the ARG-US Remote Monitoring Systems Technology led Yung and the Argonne/EPI team to develop prototypes for Remote Area Modular Monitoring, or “RAMM,“ a tool that remotely monitors nuclear facilities during normal operation and disruptive incidents or accidents. Remote monitoring technology can aid in emergency response to nuclear reactor incidents, such as the 2011 Fukushima disaster. When four nuclear reactors at the Fukushima plant in Japan were overwhelmed by a tsunami, the flooding caused the plants‘ emergency generators to fail, resulting in nuclear meltdowns, explosions, and radiation leaks. Because of the loss of power at the reactors, landline-based surveillance was not possible, making monitoring the extent of the damage in real-time—and predicting the extent of the leak radius—nearly impossible. 

RAMM units are equipped with sensors, which can be customized for the environment, to detect heightening radiation levels. When triggered, built-in emergency alarms remotely inform emergency personnel of the issue without the need for staff to be on-site at the reactor. RAMM units automatically switch to battery power if electric power is lost, allowing them to continue monitoring the reactors for up to 72 hours after a power outage. These units also communicate with each other forming a wireless sensor network and a gateway using reliable cellular and satellite technologies, which means its monitoring area and communication distance can be extended by adding additional RAMM units to increase the radius. 

The success of the first RAMM prototypes are proof of concept to continue investment in research, development, and deployment of valuable cybersecurity technology to the nuclear facilities and commercial market. The project team continues to develop this techology to expand application of remote monitoring systems to significantly improve emergency response efforts. 

View the Argonne RAMM fact sheet for more information.